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Louisiana broadband

FCC Chairman Wheeler Continues Push for E-Rate Modernization, Targets ‘Rural Fiber Gap’

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Fiber by

WASHINGTON, September 29, 2014 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the agency was committed to modernizing the E-rate program. He made the statement in remarks at the 2014 Educational Technology Summit here in Washington. Schools and libraries participating in the FCC’s E-rate program must pay the best rates available for high-speed connectivity.

He said the FCC’s recent emphasis on using Wi-Fi to share high-speed broadband within schools and libraries helps meet the evolving needs of students and teachers. Citing FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Wheeler said the issue of internet access has moved from one of “connectivity” to one of “capacity.” Wheeler also said that the transition to 21st Century technologies is not over. The next step, in addition to closing the Wi-Fi gap, is closing the rural fiber gap.

The focus on increased of internet speeds within institutions doesn’t matter if the libraries and schools lack the necessary broadband infrastructure to the buildings. This is especially a problem in rural America, where an estimated 75 percent of public schools are unable to achieve the connectivity goals set out by the FCC.  

“We must tackle the rural fiber gap if we are to achieve our connectivity targets for all schools and libraries,” Wheeler noted in a prepared statement. ”But it is also a matter of having sufficient funding and ensuring that schools can afford the ongoing costs of accessing high-capacity broadband networks.”

Wheeler said the gap in connectivity costs was shocking. In Mississippi, 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) of connectivity costs $750 per month. The same connectivity costs more than $5,000 in neighboring Louisiana.

Pricing transparency and pooling purchasing power are two ways to drive down costs, said Wheeler. If applicants for E-rate funds in different states and districts knew what schools in neighboring districts and states were paying, these schools and libraries would be able to negotiate low price contracts. Consortia could also help in getting a better deal from telecommunications providers.

Wheeler called on local and state governments for support and to continue to recognize the critical importance of connecting students in both urban and rural areas, for “it will take more than the efforts of the FCC alone to close the rural fiber gap.”

Individuals, Not Corporations Are Key To Regional Economic Development, Argues Cisco Researcher

in Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan by

LAFAYETTE, La., April 22, 2010 – The growth of the internet-connected workplace will force political leaders to re-think the policies needed to foster economic growth, argued Cisco Systems researcher Norman Jacknis Wednesday.

"A region’s wealth will be increasingly measured by the sum of the wealth of its individual residents, and not as much by the sales of businesses that happen to have a local address on its headquarters," says Cisco's Norman Jacknis.

“Mayors traditionally want big companies to move to their cities to generate jobs. But the reality is, as we’ve seen, is that it’s extremely difficult for companies to move jobs. I’m a good example, I live 3,000 miles away from San Jose. I live the same place as I did before,” Jacknis said during a presentation at FiberFete, a conference about the relationship between municipalities and high-speed fiber-to-the-home internet networks.

“In the past companies supplied the glue that allowed folks and organizations to work together,” Jacknis said. “The internet, however, has reduced the cost of working together. The company has been replaced by what the internet can now provide. And indeed, big companies aren’t going to look like a big monolithic structure.”

Instead, individuals are going to increasingly work in smaller groups, and will increasingly be contractors rather than full-time employees, he said.

“In a sense it enables them to become the primary unit of economic activity, and this means that more individuals will have more of a choice about where they live … looking at it this way, a region’s wealth will be increasingly measured by the sum of the wealth of its individual residents, and not as much by the sales of businesses that happen to have a local address on its headquarters.”

While he noted that the transition is already underway, it’ll really accelerate when video-conferencing takes off as a result of better bandwidth capacity.

He predicts that the United States will have a world of ubiquitous, high quality broadband by 2030, which will free up knowledge-economy workers to work anywhere they want.

Editor’s Note: Travel and accomodations for this series of stories was provided by the organizers of FiberFête.

Google Exec: Incumbent Telcos Welcome On Our Gigabit Network

in Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan/Net Neutrality by

What Happens When You Can Get a Gigabit of Information Per Second In and Out of Your Home?

LAFAYETTE, La., April 22, 2010 – Incumbent communications companies are welcome to set up shop on Google’s experimental super-high speed internet service once it’s up and running, one of the company’s executives said Wednesday during a discussion about rolling out fiber networks.

“We definitely inviting the Comcasts, the AT&T service providers to work with us on our network, and to provide their service offering on top of our pipe – we’re definitely planning on doing that,” said Minnie Ingersoll, Google’s product manager and co-lead for alternative access. “Our general attitude has been that there’s plenty of room for innovation right now in the broadband space, and it’s great what the cable companies are doing, upgrading to DOCSIS 3.0, but no one company has a monopoly on innovation.”

“We’re looking for other service providers to be able to come in and offer their service on top of our network so that residents have a choice when they open up their accounts,” she said. “They get the connection from us, and then they have a choice as to who they subscribe to.”

Ingersoll made the remarks at FiberFete, an invitation-only conference held in Lafayette that drew the top minds in telecommunications from around the world. Analysts and engineers flew in to discuss the impact that such high-speed connectivity would have on municipalities, and how cities and companies can re-invent themselves in such high-bandwidth environments.

Lafayette is on track to complete the build out of its own municipal fiber-to-the-home network this year. It offers businesses internet connectivity of up 100 megabits per second (mgps) and residents up to 50 mgbps. The city’s leaders are looking to the network to help drive its economic growth, and to grow new kinds of information-age businesses that diversify its economy away from the painfully cyclical oil and gas industry.

Early this February, Google announced that it plans on building one gigabit per second fiber-to-the-home internet connections in communities around the country. It solicited input from the public on where it should build such networks. Its criteria were fairly scanty: All they required at the time was that the community have a minimum of 50,000 or a maximum of 500,000 residents.

“Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone,” read the blog post making the announcement.

“We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.”

The company also said that it wants to learn about fiber deployment techniques and how to improve them.  Additionally, its goal is to make its experimental networks adhere to the “open access” and net neutrality principles that it has advocated for so long in Washington.

Telecommunications companies have historically opposed formalized “open access” rules that would have forced them to open up their networks to competing service providers.

Ingersoll said more than 1,100 communities and nearly 200,000 private individuals have asked Google to build the networks in their municipalities.

She’s been busy reviewing the applications with two criteria in mind: the efficiency with which such networks could be rolled out, and how the targeted communities could benefit from the roll-out of such a network.

“A lot of what we roll out will be dependent on the conversation we have with the communities,” she said. “What are the residents’ attitudes towards this service? Obviously when you’re deploying this in the streets, and you’re blocking the traffic it can’t be disruptive. So we’re looking for a community that’s excited to have this in their neighborhoods.”

“We’re really trying to figure out how to make the communities that we deploy in models of that wholesale open ecosystem that we want to help foster,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Travel and accomodations for this series of stories was provided by the organizers of FiberFête.

FiberFete Celebrates City’s Efforts To Build Its Own Information-Age Utility

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan by

LAFAYETTE, La., April 20, 2010 – To the extent that the city of Lafayette is famous for anything, it’s probably for its cultural status as the throbbing heart of America’s Cajun country. This week, the burg of 120,000 hosts an annual music and performance arts festival that celebrates its Francophone heritage.

Thousands will fly in from all over the world to attend the event. But among them will also be those who are flying in to both celebrate and to share experiences about building ultra-high-speed internet networks. Those people include urban planners, network engineers and policymakers from around the world who are coming to toast Lafayette’s unlikely achievement of building a 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) peer-to-peer broadband network directly to every single business and residential premise within its city limits.

“While Louisiana is known for its Cajun food and Mardi Gras, we have a lot more than that,” says Joey Durel, Lafayette’s Republican city-parish president. “We’re not some backward town.”

For the past five years, Durel and a motley crew of bipartisan citizen-activists have been pushing to publicly finance the build-out of the city utility’s fiber ring in order to attract new businesses and to retain an educated and creative workforce in a state that is suffering severe brain drain.

The city floated $110 million in municipal bonds in 2007, fought telecommunications companies that cried foul over the move, and proceeded to build the network in addition to a sophisticated 3D imaging center used by Hollywood movie companies to render their animated films into 3D images.

“We had a unique opportunity because we have our own utility company that already had a fiber optic loop that was already in the wholesale end of this business,” says Durel. “This project was about doing something great and raising the bar.”

Like the 57 other public entities in the United States that are building out fiber-to-the-home networks, Lafayette is indeed raising the bar. The city is now offering businesses up to 100 mbps for just under $200 a month. Residents have a choice of 10 Mbps, 30 Mbps or 50 Mbps for their high-speed internet connections. The project is being financed by revenue-backed municipal bonds, so taxpayers won’t be directly paying for the build-out.

The celebration will take place at FiberFête, a three-day invitation-only Woodstock of telecommunications engineers, civic leaders and policy experts from around the world who are meeting to examine Lafayette’s pioneering effort, and to hammer out ideas for emerging applications in the fields of health, education, energy and economic development.

“What Lafayette can show to the world is how to create a network that’s just about state of the art, and that the whole community supports,” explains David Isenberg, FiberFête’s co-organizer along with journalist Geoff Daily. Isenberg is a long-time advocate of such community-driven telecommunications networks. “Lafayette’s leadership also realizes that they need help, that you can’t just hang the fiber on the poles and miracles will happen – they know there’s a lot of expertise out there, and they’re hoping to bring people with a clue into town.”

Speakers at the conference include the prime movers who pushed the process forward to enable the financing of the network, public officials from The Netherlands who have also built broadband utilities, an executive from Google who is involved in its Google Gigabit Project, and San Francisco and Seattle’s chief technology officers.

The conference is a timely one since the Obama Administration has just released its National Broadband Plan, a national blueprint for how America can stay competitive in the global race to get connected to anyone else in the world through high-speed internet networks. Durel hopes that the city can serve as a model for other cities around the nation.

Editor’s Note: Travel and accomodations for this series of stories was provided by the organizers of FiberFête.

Rural Utilities Service Unveils $310 Million in Stimulus Funds for 14 Projects

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/States by

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2010 – The Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service is doling out $310 million in broadband stimulus funds, department Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday.

The monies will be spread throughout 14 projects seeking to bring speedy Internet connections to rural communities in the United States in an effort to lift and grow their economies.

“The awards for these broadband projects will support anchor institutions – such as libraries, public buildings and community centers – that are necessary for the viability of rural communities,” Vilsack said.

For example, a $2 million grant, $2 million loan and $2 million in leveraged funds will go to the BEK Communications Cooperative in Burleigh County, N.D. The company plans to expand the existing system to offer fiber-to-the-premises service to about 540 homes and other parts of the community.

The existing system provides service to 53 percent of the population in the area, according to RUS, and among the current users, 22 percent derive household income from the Internet. The RUS said the expansion is expected to stimulate economic growth by bringing on new users.

As of last week, NTIA had awarded approximately $200 million in grants for 15 projects.

Applications for the next and final round of broadband funding are due by March 15.

Here is a list of the 14 projects by state that Vilsack announced yesterday and described by RUS:

Alaska

Southwestern Alaska, United Utilities is receiving a $43.9 million grant and a $44 million loan. The funding will provide middle mile connectivity to 65 communities.

Alabama

Butler, Butler Telephone Co. is receiving at $3.8 million grant. The funding will provide high speed DSL broadband service to remote, unserved households within its rural service territory.

California

San Joaquin, Tranquillity, and Fresno, Audeamus are getting a $2.7 million grant and $2.7 million loan. The proposed project is a fiber-based broadband infrastructure for the unserved and underserved communities in this service area. A last-mile project, it will provide access to approximately 1,500 households, local businesses and other institutions.

Iowa

Meriden and Archer, C-M-L Telephone Cooperative Association, is getting a $1.5 million grant and $1.5 million loan along with $1.5 million in matching funds. Funding will provide services via a fiber optic network to rural communities with high speed internet exceeding 20 Mbps.

Bennett, Delmar, and Lowden, F & B Communications are receiving a $1.6 million grant and $1.6 million loan. Funding will provide services via high speed fiber optic network with speeds exceeding 20Mbps.

Springbrook, LaMotte Telephone Co. is receiving a $187,815 grant and a $187,815 loan. The funding will provide services from a 300-foot tower and Wi-Max installation for wireless broadband service in the surrounding area.

Kansas (1 percent of the network is to be built in Nebraska)

Western Kansas, Rural Telephone Service Co. is getting a $49.5 million grant and a $51 million loan. Funding will provide service in an area 99.5 percent unserved/underserved and provide a rural infrastructure required for economic stability, education and healthcare. The company is a cooperative and RUS partner on 32 other projects. It leads a team of seven companies with this shovel-ready project.

Tennessee (1 percent of the network is to be built in Kentucky)

Northern Tennessee, North Central Telephone Cooperative is getting a $24.7 million grant and a $24.9 million loan. The funding will provide the necessary infrastructure to provide advanced voice, video, and data services that exceed 20Mbps to remote and rural communities in the service area.

Louisiana

Morehouse Parish, Northeast Louisiana Telephone Co., is receiving a $4.3 million grant and a $8 million loan. Funding will provide an active ethernet system with symmetrical speeds of 20 Mbps. The system will be using buried fiber to the premise.

Missouri

Ralls County, Ralls County Electric Cooperative is receiving a $9.5 million grant and a $9.5 million loan. Funding for this project will provide a fiber optic network to residential and commercial members and the underserved safety and anchor agencies in the service area. This is a State of Missouri demonstration project and non-proprietary data will be shared.

North Dakota

Burleigh County; BEK Communications Cooperative, is receiving $1.9 million grant and $2 million loan along with $2 million in leveraged funds.

Traill County; Halstad Telephone Co. will receive a $2 million grant and a $2 million loan plus $10,000 in leveraged funds. The funding will provide fiber-to-the premises broadband service to unserved homes and businesses in Traill County.

Oregon

Marion County, Gervais telephone Co. will receive a $314,430 grant and $314,430 loan. This project extends Gervais Telephone’s existing fiber network by building out from the nearest fiber splice point through the funded service area. This project will provide broadband connectivity to residential and business end users, as well as to four anchor institutions.

Virginia

Alleghany County, NTELOS Telephone is receiving an $8 million grant and $8 million loan. The funds will provide broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved homes, businesses and critical community institutions in this rural county. A fiber-based project, it will enable work-from-home jobs and foster economic development, and improve health, education and public safety services to the county citizens.

Sen. Mary Landrieu Hails Louisiana’s Broadband Mapping Award

in Broadband Data/Broadband Updates by

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., drew attention this week to her home state’s broadband mapping project that will be funded by money Congress allocated in January to encourage broadband deployment and use. The Louisiana Division of Administration, Office of Information Technology, has been awarded approximately $1.7 million for broadband mapping and planning projects.

“Expanding broadband internet access to rural America is a key component to spurring small business growth in Louisiana,” Landrieu said. “By increasing broadband internet activity, rural small businesses will be better able to compete with companies in more technologically advanced parts of the country, thus leading to their success and giving them the tools they need to retain and create jobs in local communities,” she added.

The Office of Information Technology will spend approximately $1.2 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities over a two-year period, and almost $500,000 for broadband planning activities over a two-year period.

Landrieu’s office noted that she has been “a long-time advocate for the expansion of broadband technology.’ She also supported efforts to expand small businesses access to broadband technology and to get broadband to unserved rural areas.

NTIA Announces Award for Six More Broadband Mapping Projects

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus by

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2009 – The U.S. government announced Monday that it has awarded millions of dollars to five state entities and one nonprofit organization – Connected Nation – that proposed projects to help collect better data on broadband availability across the country.

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the government agency responsible for taking the lead on broadband data as part of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program, announced funding for broadband mapping and planning activities in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri.

The awardees must contribute at least 20 percent of non-federal funds toward project costs. Each state has designated one entity that it believes should receive funds under the program.

According to Monday’s announcement, five states will receive grants, plus Connected Nation – for its efforts in the state of Kansas. NTIA said the “state of Kansas will direct and implement all planning activities” for the organization. It has been awarded approximately $2 million from the government.

NTIA has also awarded Alaska’s Denali Commission, an independent federal agency, approximately $1.4 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities over a two-year period and nearly $500,000 for broadband planning activities over a five-year period in Alaska.

Other state entities to receive funds for broadband data collection, mapping and planning activities include: Colorado’s Governor’s Office of Information Technology, the Delaware Department of Technology and Information, the Missouri Office of Administration, and Louisiana’s Office of Information Technology.

The grants are made possible under NTIA’s State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program, which was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress and signed on February 17, 2009.

“The program will provide grants to assist states or their designees in gathering and verifying state-specific data on the availability, speed, location, and technology type of broadband services,” NTIA said in a statement.

“The data they collect and compile will also be used to develop publicly available state-wide broadband maps and to inform the comprehensive, interactive, and searchable national broadband map that NTIA is required by the Recovery Act to create and make publicly available by February 17, 2011.”

The data that comes out of the selected projects will also feed the agency’s national broadband map, a tool that is meant to inform policymakers and provide consumers with better information on the broadband Internet services available to them. The map will “display the geographic areas where broadband service is available; the technology used to provide the service; the speeds of the service; and broadband service availability at public schools, libraries, hospitals, colleges, universities, and public buildings,” NTIA states. “The national map will also be searchable by address and show the broadband providers offering service in the corresponding census block or street segment,” according to the agency.

NTIA has already announced fifteen grant recipients under the mapping program.

Freedom to Connect Panelists Hopeful About Prospects for 'Smart Grid'

in Broadband's Impact by

SILVER SPRING, Md., April 1, 2009 – Panelists speaking at the Freedom to Connect conference here on Tuesday hopefully urged the possibility that electrical “smart grids” could bring utilities into competition with incumbent telecommunications companies.

Atlantic Engineering Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer James Salter said that smart grids would make more economic sense, and also constituted an increased “moral responsibility” for the environment.

Terry Huval, director of the Lafayette, Louisiana, Utility System’s fiber-to-the-home project, said that his system would help bring broadband to everyone in the state.

The FTTH project in Lafayette benefited from bipartisan political support, highlighting existing and emerging benefits of new technology.

“One of our successes has been the Video Internet Phone, which has ensured best customer value,” he said.

Huval said Lafayette benefited from consulting widely and listening to the opinions that it gathered. “We listened to the community, and that is why we have been able to talk about success,” he said.

Lack of computer hardware, he said, remained a major handicap in bridging the digital divide.

This, he said, led the Lafayette local authority turning to television subscriptions – at $51 a month – as the medium for bringing consumers to their fiber solution.

“Cable TV is the most important driver to what we are doing,” he said.

If everything falls into place, he said, Medicare, education, gaming, the movie industry, as well as the financial sector, could benefit from improved broadband access.

Moderating, App-rising.com’s Geoff Daily said that creating next-generation innovations would require a move towards fiber and wireless technology, and was contingent on America’s can-do spirit.

Tim Denton, a commissioner at Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, advised that Americans might be interested in Canada’s experience in attempting to develop a comprehensive framework for the regulation of all forms of media.

But Denton also warned they would have to beware of Canada’s strong nationalistic and protectionist tendencies.

During the public comment session, members of the public called for a uniformity in standards when it comes to smart grids, and possibilities for local initiatives to learn from their peers engaged in similar projects.

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